STREET SCENE, TOKYO STYLE (Jul, 1962)

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STREET SCENE, TOKYO STYLE

By Elliot H. McCleary

TRAFFIC IN TOKYO, the world’s largest city (population: 10 million), is, to put it mildly, dense, wild, fast, and furious.

The very diversity of vehicles, as well as their number, is startling. There are automobiles of varying shapes and sizes— Japanese, French, German, an occasional, looming Chevy or Plymouth.

Coveys of goggled motorcyclists thunder their motors at intersections, roar away in blue smoke when the light changes. There are three-wheeled trucks guided inside by handle bars. There are sleek cabs dashing in and out of openings in the traffic, scattering the pedestrians who stream in thousands across intersections, or walk right in the street in the majority of byways which have no sidewalks.

To add to the confusion and excitement of Tokyo driving (which, by the way, proceeds down the left side of the street) there are messengers on bicycles wheeling in and around the cars, laundrymen with huge bundles behind them, repairmen with ladders and tools mounted on bicycle sidecars and trailers, and white-capped restaurant delivery boys—some balancing trays on which are bowls of fish, rice or fuming tea.

All this activity is more amazing when you consider that cars are a luxury in a land where the average workman makes less than $100 a month. Also the Japanese auto industry turns out less than 500,000 four-wheeled motor vehicles a year and less than 200,000 of these are passenger cars. But Tokyo alone has 400,000 cars and trucks on its streets, with 3000 being added every month.

Traffic is further congested by the national output of a million and a half motor bikes and mtorcycles and 300,000 three-wheelers a year. The city government cannot keep up with the demand for better streets and more sidewalks which are desperately needed to curb the rate of 14,000 accidents per year.

Something will have to be done, muse the city fathers while they appropriate more money for traffic policemen, street lights, and an expressway.

But like their counterparts in the United States, they may be unable to solve a modern mystery: Why does a mild-mannered average man suddenly become an avenging warrior when he gets behind the wheel of his Datsun?

13 comments
  1. 2sk21 says: September 30, 201111:59 am

    I think its very interesting that this description of Tokyo in 1962 could just as easily apply to China of today.

  2. Hirudinea says: September 30, 20111:07 pm

    @ 2sk21 – Except Japanese proudcts had some quality, Chinese proudcts are garbage.

  3. Jari says: September 30, 20111:45 pm

    Hiru: In early sixties “Made In Japan” didn’t mean quality (There were exceptions). Then not-so-good products were “Made In Hong-Kong” and later “Made In Taiwan”. I’d say that in 10-20 years, we’ll see another place where shoddy products come from, when the Chinese understand that quality means better business.

  4. 2sk21 says: September 30, 20111:48 pm

    @Jari You are absolutely right. Japan of the early 60s was notorious for shoddy goods.

    However, Japan experienced explosive growth in the 1960s. Even by 1970, people’s opinions of Japan had changed drastically. Whats interesting to me is how backward Japan seemed to a Western reporter in 1962.

  5. Charlie says: September 30, 20112:17 pm

    I have an iPhone and a MacBook Air, both of which are made in China and are decidedly not garbage.

  6. Jari says: September 30, 20113:47 pm

    2sk21: Exactly, in late 60′s Japan made cars, cameras and electronics have made tremendous leap forward. Remember those “Passed” stickers in Cameras? That was an conscious effort by Japanese to make good quality cameras.

    Charlie: They are made by certain subcontractor, that the company I work for also uses. I’d like to call them an exception :) If you take apart eg. a solar garden light made in China and just look at the soldering… Scooters and mopeds made in there usually don’t last longer that 2 years. Hand -and powertools breaks easily (and have horribly fitting plastic parts. etc. These examples could go on and on. Main point is, that they are getting better.

  7. Andrew L. Ayers says: September 30, 20113:52 pm

    “I’d say that in 10-20 years, we’ll see another place where shoddy products come from…”

    @Jari: I’d be willing to bet real money, in 10-20 years, that the label will say “Made in the USA”.

  8. Charlie says: September 30, 20113:57 pm

    Jari: Agreed, it’s all about the price. Obviously I don’t expect a 99 cent laser pointer to be high-quality, I’m just amazed it can be done at all.

  9. Hirudinea says: September 30, 20114:24 pm

    Well everybody I hope that the quality of Chinese goods gets better, since it seems its all we’ll be able to buy in the future, I kind of doubt it, China seems to be focused on quantity rather than quality, cheap over good, and if they do increase their quality it wil drive up prices and we’ll just get WalMart selling us crap of dubious quality made for slave wages in Somalia or Madagascar or Antartica! (Those penguins work cheap!)

  10. christoph says: September 30, 20114:50 pm

    I recently bought a very high quality $50 LED flashlight, arguably one of the best on the market (Fenix LD20). I was so impressed by the quality of this one, that I bought a headlight from the same company. Both are many times better than anything made by Maglite etc.

    The manufacturer (Fenix) is Chinese.

  11. Jari says: September 30, 20114:56 pm

    Andrew: Actually I’ a bit worried what the real money would even be in 10-20 years, with all the monetary crises here and there….

    Charlie: Yep. Or a normal, non-hammering mains using electric 500W drill for 5 USD a piece with minimum order of 500 pieces.

  12. qyooqy says: September 30, 20115:56 pm

    There are ways to cut costs: http://www.youtube.com/…

  13. Andrew L. Ayers says: October 1, 201111:39 am

    @Jari: No argument from me – I’m just as worried…

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